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THE    CHINESE    CHARACTER               47

of this indifference in no time, and "became wise." The most
successful journalists in China are those who have no opinion
of their own. Like all Chinese gentlemen, and like the Western
diplomats, they are proud of committing themselves to no
opinion on life in general, and on the crying question of the
hour in particular.1 What else can they do? One can be
public-spirited when there is a guarantee for personal rights,
and one's only look-out is the libel law. When these rights are
not protected, however, our instinct of self-preservation tells
us that indifference is our best constitutional guarantee for
personal liberty.

In other words, indifference is not a high moral virtue but
a social attitude made necessary by the absence of legal
protection. It is a form of self-protection, developed in the
same manner as the tortoise develops its shell. The famous
Chinese apathetic gaze is only a self-protective gaze, acquired
by a lot of culture and self-discipline. This is borne out by
the fact that Chinese robbers and bandits, who do not depend
upon legal protection, do not develop this indifference, but
are the most chivalrous and public-spirited class of people
we know in China. Chinese chivalry, under the name of
"haohsieh" is invariably associated with the robbers as in
Shuihu. The vicarious pleasure derived in reading the life
and adventures of such heroes accounts for the popularity of
such novels, in the same way that Elinor Glyn's popularity
was to be accounted for by the large number of old maids in
the United States. The strong, therefore, are public-spirited
because they can afford to be so, and the meek who constitute
the majority of the people are indifferent because they need to
protect themselves.

Historically, this could be strikingly proved in the history
of the Wei and Ch'in Dynasties, when scholars became admired
for their indifference to national affairs, resulting soon in the
sapping of national strength and the conquest of North China
by barbarians. It was the fashion for scholars of the Wei and
Ch'in Dynasties to give themselves up to drinking, "light

1 The oldest and biggest daily paper in China, Shun Poo, formerly enjoyed
the reputation of editorially handling (i) foreign and not domestic questions;
(2) distant and not immediate topics, and (3) general and not specific subjects,,
like ''The Importance of Diligence," "The Value of Truth/' etc.